Startup Plots Storage Over IP Coup

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (05/23/2000) - In Urdu, a native tongue of Pakistan, Nishan means "leaving an impact," which is what storage network startup Nishan Systems hopes to do with products that let users create storage networks using IP and existing Ethernet networks.

The company, founded by Aamir Latif, Gary Orenstein, Pete Hepburn and five engineers, will introduce hardware later this year and submit a draft to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for a protocol dubbed storage over IP.

Storage over IP transfers large blocks of data instead of files over local Gigabit Ethernet or wide-area SONET networks. In a storage-over-IP network, SCSI- or next-generation Infiniband-based servers, tape libraries and Fibre Channel, SCSI or ESCON disk arrays can connect and interoperate with devices on a Gigabit Ethernet network via a storage-over-IP adapter or a switch that joins to a Gigabit Ethernet switch or router.

Data is transported across Gigabit Ethernet network to storage-area networks (SAN) on the other side of the IP-based network or local workstations without the latency, dropped packets and packet-sequencing problems often attributed to TCP/IP, Nishan claims. Because network managers are familiar with Gigabit Ethernet, using storage-over-IP adapters presents none of the interoperability concerns and unfamiliarity of Fibre Channel SANs, the company says.

"I love Nishan's chances," says Steve Duplessie, an analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, Massachusetts. "[Transporting] block data over IP is cool. Users love the idea of using IP as a transport for fabric networks. They know it works and that it is interoperable."

Although IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts, projects the SAN market will reach $2.8 billion in 2003, users are still hesitant to adopt separate Fibre Channel data infrastructures. Nearly half the IT managers polled by Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colorado, said they would not implement SANs.

Most said a lack of standards was the chief deterrent.

Well-heeled with $30 million from several venture capital firms, Nishan will ship storage-over-IP adapters and switches. Soon the company will announce an additional $20 million in funding from Cisco, Intel and two other vendors, sources say. Intel invested in other Infiniband projects at Crossroads Systems and Ancor Communications. Jayshree Ullal, vice president and general manager of Cisco's enterprise business unit, also sits on Nishan's board.

"The convergence of storage and IP networking is inevitable," Ullal says.

"Combining the classical SCSI and Fibre Channel storage technologies with Gigabit Ethernet and IP will make storage networking seamless and easy to use."

The company will also rely heavily on other vendors using Nishan's storage over IP and expects some partners in the network infrastructure and storage markets to ship products before it does.

"We don't want to put in multiple separate networks," says a storage resource manager for a large retailer in the South. "We are in the process of completing SAN evaluations and will have one in place by the middle of this year. We are concerned about interoperability, as we want to achieve plug and play and the Fibre Channel world is not yet there."

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